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Behind the jukebox, and other secrets of Tampa's favorite dive bar, The Hub




Reporting a story about the Hub’s 60th anniversary isn’t an easy proposition, even if you can survive the smoke.

The bar owner refuses to have his picture taken. At least one  customer won’t give his name for fear his three ex-wives will track him down. The homeless patrons are incoherent and generally unreliable.

It’s an imperfect place full of imperfect people, just like the rest of the world. Maybe that’s why it’s been around for 60 years. And probably why it’ll endure for another 60.

"I wish I had a retainability -- is that a word? -- of the experiences I've had here," says regular Kevin Shanahan.

The Hub, tbt*'s "Ultimate Corner Bar," will celebrate its diamond anniversary on Sunday night, with food, drinks and music by Here B4. It's a unique place to catch a concert, as we saw when we watched Sons of Hippies and Dear Old Liar rock the house a month ago.

Susan Thurston spent some time at the Hub's famed linoleum bar to dig up some of the stories that have made downtown Tampa's darkest, dankest most delightful dive bar, short and simply, the Hub. Click here to read her story.

And when you're talking about the Hub, there's no way to avoid talking about the jukebox, one of the finest in Tampa Bay. (Where else are you going to find Lead Belly, My Bloody Valentine, N.W.A. and George Strait all in one place?)

The man charged with servicing the famed juke (a 1996 Rowe Venus) is Matthew Vigil, who's been doing it for about 13 years. He comes about once a week unless a problem arises. "Then I have to come down right away," he said.

Picking the music is done loosely through committee. Hub regulars and local musicians often leave CDs at the bar for Vigil to review. Bar owner Ferrell "Skooter" Melton gets the final say.

Click here for the full story on how music is selected and serviced at the Hub's vaunted jukebox.

-- Photo: Luis Santana, tbt*

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 28, 2010 3:13pm]


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